First-Time Attendee Experience at RMASFAA: Expedition 406 Billings, MT

Caridad Trudy Bargamento, Financial Aid Counselor @ Utah Valley University

Attending the RMASFAA conference has strengthen my personal resolve when assisting students to reach their potential at Utah Valley University. Our conference keynote speaker, Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, talk left an indelible mark on my heart and mind! Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, bio stated she will forever be an island girl. She was born in Trinidad, West Indies and raised on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  She shared how her mother worked several jobs to ensure she and her brother were able to attend a private school. She was an intelligent girl, but she shared she was angry inside and fought in school constantly. In her life’s journey there were two significant people outside of her family who were instrumental her finishing high school and later graduating from college. One was her JROTC instructor that provided her with a purpose in high school and let her know she could go to college. Then in college while struggling in her math class and lack of support and not knowing what to do, a janitor took the time to talk to her about her not attending her math class. That janitor made the difference in her college life.

Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, made this statement during the beginning of her talk, “You Were Born For Greatness!”  There were stigmas in her life and she could have let them control her life, but she learned she was better than those stigmas and overcame them. She learned how to fight for something purposeful.

In her closing remarks, she shared the word “ENHANCE” … “How Will You INTENTIOANLLY Grow Greatness?”

As I sat and listed to her, I realized how much our lives were somewhat similar. I too am an island girl, that grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii. Aa young girl, I faced many educational and prejudicial obstacles at my elementary and middle school. Like Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein I had a mother that worked long hours to provide a better future for me and her expectation of me going to college never wavered. As a little girl, then as a young woman, my life goal was always to get a college education. My life choices initially prevented me from attaining that goal.  However, forty-four years after starting my college degree, while working for the University of Maryland University College Europe in Germany I was able to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree.

In closing, Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, shared her personal story with us, then asked us, “What is your story?” I nodded and smiled to myself, because as I work with students daily and they ask me on how they can receive a scholarship, I always say share your story! Your story is your essay, it is your way of conveying, sharing who you are! I have this quote on my office credenza that says, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what within us. Emerson.” I let students know, they should not let what lies behind them or the uncertainty of their future to define who they can become! I share with students what lies within them is what that matters! Everyone has a story to share!

Attending this RMASFAA Conference, participating in the sessions, meeting other professionals who care about their chosen profession and most importantly after hearing Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, going forward I know I am on the right path! When students share their sorrow of not having that caring support, I become their biggest supporter, just like the JROTC leader and the janitor in Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein life. I let them know to come back always, I am here for them!

I look forward to other opportunities with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the future to share my passion for education with the diverse student population at UVU, students struggling to find their way!! I know without a shadow of doubt that with Exceptional Care, Exceptional Accountability, there is no reason not to have Exceptional Results, EXCEPTIONAL GREATNESS!!

The DIC Fall Conference Scholarship application is now available!


The RMASFAA Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DIC) would like to announce the opening of our Fall Conference Scholarship application. This scholarship will help RMASFAA members pay for costs to attend the RMASFAA Fall Conference, October 7-10, 2018 in Fargo, ND.

The deadline to submit the application is August 15, 2018.

The scholarship is intended primarily for individuals who promote equity and inclusion. Although preference will be given to these applicants, please do not hesitate to apply should you be interested in the mission of the DIC or in equity and inclusion advocacy.

2018 DIC Fall Conference Scholarship application

If you have difficulty with the application process, please contact Manuel Gant at

Note:  You must be a current member to be considered for the scholarship, so please make certain that your payment is current.


Diversity and Inclusion Committee Scholarship Recipient – Jayson Matlock

This summer was the first time that I have ever been able to experience Summer Institute through RMASFAA, and I had a great time! I started my journey into financial aid about 6 years ago as a work-study student, and have been working as a counselor for three years. I just recently hit my three-year mark!

Throughout my time, I have been introduced to new information and methods that others adopt to stay productive and efficient and it can be an overwhelming burden when you first begin. Summer Institute has definitely contributed to my overall mindset about this field, and has given me a greater perspective and pride in my role as an administrator.

As soon as SI started, I knew it was a great place to be for professional growth. It has been a little while since I had to sit in a classroom, and everyone in my group had varying years of experience and certain specializations at their institutions. Throughout the week, I had great instruction from James and Susan, and they were very thorough in presenting the information to help us understand it on a deeper level. My teammates and coaches helped me to understand a lot during the week. I know I am a super curious person, but I felt super comfortable asking questions and being able to discuss information that I wanted a greater understanding of.  I may be biased, but I feel that I was on one of the best teams as a Decathlete!

In my group, many critical thinking activities helped us to see outside of the box, or connect to situations that are not as common. I definitely came away with info that got me excited to share it with my institution, and inspired me to do research to prepare for the future.

The professional development opportunities at RMASFAA are extremely abundant as well. Everyone has a mentality that makes you want to be a part of something bigger in the financial aid community. Whether that be through a position or volunteerism is completely up to the individual, but the opportunities are present. The environment is definitely somewhere a growing FAA in the field would want to be to become better at their role.

To be real, I thought Summer Institute was just a great time. I had a personal best of knocking down 10 bottles in about 18 seconds with a stocking wrapped around my head, and I won’t lie that I felt a little competitive with it!  Aside from the games, which were awesome, I was also able to network with so many people, and I felt like I was trying to be everybody’s friend! There are many people in RMASFAA that I would consider a mentor or resource, and it is great to be able to rely on people who have similar interests. When Thursday ended, I was a little sad since I was having a great time, but I look forward to being involved more in the future!

Jayson Matlock

When I began in Financial Aid, it was the first step into my professional career. I was brand new to this world coming from a different background where socioeconomic issues are real, and at times I was unsure if financial aid was the best fit for my since I wanted to make the big bucks and be on the quick track to success. However, the more I consider my values and the role I assume, the more I realize I love what I do and that there are still opportunities to grow! SI has definitely reinforced that passion for me, and I continually look forward to the future in Financial Aid.

I sincerely thank the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for selecting me as a candidate for the scholarship, and I am extremely grateful for the knowledge and connections I was able to gain from the experience!

P.S. I bleed plaid.

Jayson Matlock
Southern Utah University

Diversity and Inclusion Committee Scholarship Recipient – Emery Vigil

Home Run

Summer Institute provides the perfect opportunity for new and seasoned financial aid professionals to establish new friendships, share knowledge, and witness exemplary leadership within the financial aid community. Thanks to the Diversity & Inclusion Committee Scholarship, I have had the privilege of attending Summer Institute two years in a row.

As a new financial aid professional at Summer Institute, I found that the overwhelming support and encouragement from other conference attendees is a powerful motivator to seek out further opportunities within RMASFAA and consider how I might one day be a leader within this field.

Emery Vigil

While the twin beds in the dorm rooms made many of us cringe, each day’s events (plus a lot of coffee), made for an exciting and challenging week. I found myself becoming competitive both inside and outside the classroom, trying to solve scavenger hunt questions, win points for my team at Minute To Win It, and keep up with Vicki Kucera during morning/afternoon walks.

My amazing instructors, Brandon and Peggy, created a cohesive learning atmosphere in which ideas and practices were both challenged and applauded. My team’s sport/theme was baseball, which Brandon and Peggy wholeheartedly embraced with matching jerseys, Cracker Jacks, and peanuts!

My experience at Summer Institute reminds me why I feel so passionate about financial aid. Unlike many of my peers, my career path into financial aid was a planned one. I went into graduate school knowing that I wanted to work in financial aid and started my current position as a financial aid counselor at the University of Utah two months after graduating.

However, financial aid in practice offered far more of a challenge than I ever anticipated. The days are long, the procedures and policies change overnight, and the students we help are numerous. Summer institute reminds me to smile like John Curl, sing a verification song like Art Young, and remember that behind every FAFSA is an individual, a family, and a community that I have the honor of serving. I am incredibly thankful to the Diversity & Inclusion Committee for giving me the opportunity to attend Summer Institute. This experience was nothing short of a home run!

Emery Vigil
University of Utah


A career of dedication and Diversity and Inclusion Committee Updates (past-DMCI)

During the 1999-2000 academic year, I had opportunity to serve as vice chair of RMASFAA’s Diversity and Multi-Cultural Initiatives (DMCI) Committee. In February of 2000, my family and I moved to Ohio and began a series of opportunities and moves that tremendously changed our lives. 18 years later and back in both central Kansas and daily financial aid operations, my submitted RMASFAA volunteer form completed a full-circle in life by providing a return to the DMCI committee. As the work of the committee progresses this year, it has been good for me to ponder related personal, professional and world-wide philosophical shifts that have occurred over these intervening years. In this post, I intend to update readers on some current changes happening within the ethos of this RMASFAA committee while also encouraging each of us to continue thinking about, and acting on, ways we can improve our communities and the inclusiveness of our daily interactions.


In the context of RMASFAA, DMCI over the years has been associated almost exclusively with scholarships and issues of ethnicity. Of course, the term “diversity” now encompasses so much more than it used to. Working towards goals of broadening and modernizing the scope of our work, committee members this year discussed and, ultimately, proposed re-naming the committee and establishing a new purpose statement. At its spring meeting, the Board approved the proposal! Going forward, RMASFAA will benefit from the work of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The purpose of the committee is to “Explore current social issues that relate to our profession in order to bring awareness to the members of our association and ultimately foster a culture of acceptance, inclusion, and respect. The Committee is also charged with awarding scholarships to members of our association for training opportunities provided by RMASFAA.”

Paulo Freire was a noted Brazilian educational philosopher who receives particular acclaim for his work in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In his book, Freire states and supports his belief that all of us fall into one of two groups – the oppressed and the oppressors. A favorite quote of mine from this piece is, “It is essential for the oppressed to realize that when they accept the struggle for humanization they also accept, from that moment, their total responsibility for the struggle.” It is easy to view placement in either an oppressed or oppressor category from a negative connotation, but if we choose to flip either definition to a positive sense, then we can make choices about how to act for the betterment of those around us. We can each truly own our responsibility, regardless of what issue you choose to place foremost in any given struggle. This is essentially what your Diversity and Inclusion Committee now strives to do. We want RMASFAA members to understand that diversity covers what is different about those around us including things such as gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, background, size, and so much more. We define inclusion as what is being done to not marginalize, discriminate, or minimize a group of our population because of what makes them different.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve become one of the older, more experienced people in the room. Not quite sure how that happened, but a distinct benefit of all the places I’ve lived and worked has been the opportunity to regularly interact with others who represent almost any description of diversity. The distinct opportunity we each have, as I now see it, is how we choose advocate for inclusiveness of others, regardless of personal and collective understanding of any given diverse attribute, into our community.  As you consider “Diversity and Inclusion” within RMASFAA, your work environment, and your community, be encouraged to ask questions and ponder solutions. What can you do to advocate for the oppressed? As an oppressor, whether real or perceived, what can you do to help broaden understanding and positively influence policy? There is much we can each do, and RMASFAA members should look forward to continued focus on how we can enhance inclusion.

Mark Bandre, Ed. D.
Bethany College
Diversity and Inclusion Committee

2018 DMCI SI Scholarship Announcement


The DMCI Summer Institute Scholarship application is now available!

The RMASFAA Diversity and Multicultural Initiative Committee (DMCI) would like to announce the opening of our Summer Institute Scholarship application. This scholarship will help RMASFAA members pay for costs to attend the RMASFAA Summer Institute (June 3-8 in Colorado Springs, CO)

The deadline to submit the application is April 30, 2018.

The scholarship is intended primarily for individuals who promote equity and inclusion. Although preference will be given to these applicants, please do not hesitate to apply should you be interested in the mission of the DMCI Committee or in equity and inclusion advocacy.

2018 DMCI Summer Institute Scholarship Application

If you have difficulty with the application process, please contact Manuel Gant at

Note:  You must be a current member to be considered for the scholarship, so please make certain that your payment is current.


DMCI Scholarship Recipient – Beverly Lammey

I was honored to receive one of the Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives scholarships allowing me to attend the RMASFAA conference in Wichita, KS this fall.

When you get to attend a conference like this it becomes apparent that the people in the area of Financial Aid make all the difference. My co-workers and associates motivate me to learn and overcome the difficult situations that can arise.

Thank you to the Training Committee for creating access to credentialing through webinars this year.  Attending the conference allowed me to add The SAP Credential as the 5th earned this year.

My position as one of several Financial Aid Specialist l at Montana State University Bozeman allows me to be involved in many aspects of Financial Aid.  We counsel students and their concerned parents by phone, email, and as they come in to our office.  The processes we preform include Verification, Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeals, Special Conditions Appeals, packaging and all of the changes students request during the year.  In addition, I am part of the Scholarship team.  We process new awards, review renewing awards and update BANNER by creating and setting up the billing accounts. The resources are offered through the Alumni Foundation, the Montana University System, Athletics and those awarded by the individual Colleges and Departments.  Some of these are growing but the State funds have declined and 3 programs were eliminated last year. In addition to losing these funds the Perkins Loan came to a close this year.  What is the future of access to higher education for students with high financial need?  The Break-out sessions I attended in conjunction with the Federal Update and NASFAA Update helped me realize that I am curious about the future of Financial Aid, not just on my campus but at the Federal Level.

It has been a happy 2 years of growth for me here in the Financial Aid office of Montana State University.  I hope to continue on and look forward to serving on a State or Regional Committee through 2018-2019.

Beverly Lammey
Financial Aid Specialist 1
Montana State University

DMCI Scholarship Recipient – Ashley Stevenson

My experience at RMASFAA was a lot more than what I expected and I got so much more out of it than I thought I would. Being one of the Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives scholarship recipients, I am so grateful to be able to attend the conference in Wichita and meet so many amazing people.

Attending this conference really helped me branch out and network with people from all over the region. Since the conference, I have been in contact with many conference attendees to help get ideas on how to make my position better. Without attending RMASFAA I don’t think I would have such a strong network of people within Higher Education.

I attended a lot of great classes but one of the classes that stood most out to me was the ‘Becoming a Director’ class.  This class really helped put my goals in perspective and gave me a checklist of things I need to do in order to become a Director. One of the main points that has stuck with me is when the presenter said ‘Do the most you can possible do to be an expert in your job, so when the time comes that a director positions opens, you are already prepared.’ This really helped align my career goals and encouraged me to become more of an expert in my position and within my office. So when the time comes, I am prepared to lead.

Another great class was by Billie Jo Hamilton on ‘What is Leadership’.  She really helped explain that not all leaders are made the same and she encouraged us to find our individual leadership skills. She helped us realize our strengths as leaders and how we can become great influencers in our positions. She also dived into the difference of being a leader vs. being a manager. Not that one is more important than the other, but both are needed for different situations.
Lastly, she really encouraged us to find our passions as leaders and utilize our strengths.

This conference really helped me realize that my job here at Utah Valley University, is a lot bigger than me.  There are so many people in the region who are willing to help me succeed and for that I am thankful.

I am so grateful to attend the Wichita Conference not only as a DCMI Scholarship Receipt but also as a member of the newest Leadership Pipeline Class of 2017-2018. I am excited to see where this new journey will take me.

See everyone at Summer Institute in 2018!

Ashley Stevenson - DMCI Recipient
Ashley Stevenson
Federal Work Study Program Coordinator
Utah Valley University

DMCI Conference Scholarship


The DMCI Wichita Conference Scholarship application is now available!

The RMASFAA Diversity and Multicultural Initiative Committee (DMCI) would like to announce the opening of our Wichita Conference Scholarship application. This scholarship will help RMASFAA members pay for costs to attend the RMASFAA Fall Conference (October 15-18 in Wichita, KS).

The deadline to submit the application is August 11, 2017.

The scholarship is intended primarily for underrepresented communities, but please do not hesitate to apply should you be interested in advocating for the mission of the DMCI Committee.

You will find the scholarship application on the RMASFAA website under “Online Forms”.  Below is the link to the application:

2017 DMCI Wichita Conference Scholarship Application

Note:  You must be a current member to be considered for the scholarship, so please make certain that your payment is current.

If you have difficulty with the application process, please contact Manuel Gant at